Contributor: Brent Rankin

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This was hell. The crumpled rejection slips he held were hell. How many times he’d submitted the same story to this ungrateful magazine? Twenty? Thirty times? “Your story doesn’t fit our motif…” “Too risqué…” “Too short…” Too long…” Every conceivable reason for turning down his story. All this humiliation for four cent a word.

But they would publish it. He’d change a word here, a phase there. He’d mail it off, again. They had to publish it!

“Please quit sending us this drivel. We’ve rejected it numerous times for numerous reasons…”

Another change here. Delete a sentence there. He sent it off again.

“Sir, enough is enough. We will publish this trash when hell freezes over!” Curt, to the point, abrupt, but wrong. He knew they were wrong.

So, sitting at his keyboard, he wrote. And wrote. He wrote some more. Changed a noun here, a verb there. Same story, same theme. When his landlady knocked at his door, asking if he had his rent, he growled. “Tomorrow! Tomorrow!” He clattered at the keyboard.

“When Hell Freezes Over. This is our final reply!”

He was so livid that he hadn’t noticed summer becoming fall. He ate rarely, drank only when thirsty, and it was rum on the rocks when he did.

That one word, one sentence. He’d find it, write it, and be published. He sent it off again.

Fall had become a brutal winter when the Editor scanned his latest manuscript. He oh-hummed…

Wait. He read it again. He hadn’t noticed that one tickling phase that tied everything together. Why, this story was amazing! The characters were maudlin and the plot trite, but there was that something that worked. The story was…beautiful! Why, of course, he’d publish it. And so, he dashed off a letter of acceptance to the writer, with an enclosed check for four cents a word.

It was a very brutal winter. When the landlady found the writer’s frozen carcass sitting at the keyboard, she grimaced at the icy grin the writer had, his frozen fist gripping the letter of acceptance and the check for four cents a word.

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"It's what writers do."
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